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Soil

Since I handed over the NOFA/Mass Education Director job to Glenn Oliveira (and he has embraced it with all of his might), I have time for investigation and outreach in directions that never seemed to fit into my day in the past.

The Soil and Nutrition Conference has, since the first conference four years ago, been making connections between soil, plant, animal, and human health. The 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference offers a wonderful line-up of presenters, including two of the five presenters, John Slack and Bryan O'Hara, interviewed below.

The 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference is a two-day, farmer friendly event, with early bird pricing of $100 (BFA/NOFA Member) by December 1, 2014, and the opportunity to foster information sharing and camaraderie among attendees.

New England soils are notoriously thin but can be restored with planned grazing. Increasing soil biodiversity improves the water cycle, food quality, farm profitability, wildlife habitat, and climate. We will learn from case studies how to integrate pasture, woodlands and croplands deepening soils to create a New England Savannah.

I will report from the Africa Center for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, where grazing, in accordance with evolutionary patterns, is re-greening highly depleted landscapes: helping to provide sustainable food and water security while invariably sequestering carbon through new soil formation. Case studies and explanations provided.

We will have time to assess bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes in soil and compost samples from several participants. I will demonstrate practical microscope methods, and interpret results, suggesting needed steps to improve the soil for better crop production, or to maintain soil life, if good balances are observed.

Soil and dirt are not synonyms. Learn the differences and learn how returning beneficial organisms to dirt can initiate the conversion back into soil, producing a host of benefits for plant production and for the farmer. We will examine the cast of characters needed to shepherd this transition; understand why these organisms can reduce water use by up to 70% in certain cases; strategize how to reduce or eliminate the need for mineral fertilizers; and plan to foster soil conditions where weeds, pests and diseases don't have an edge on our crops.

Presenters in the 2014 NOFA Summer Conference’s eight-part “Soil Carbon and Climate” Track examine the ways in which organic farming can address the climate crisis. These workshops detail farming methods for vegetables, fruits, nuts, forage, and feed that provide a resilient food source while returning carbon molecules from the atmosphere to the soil.

We are very pleased and fortunate to be able to host Christine Jones of Australia for two NOFA/Mass events on Monday, September 1 (Labor Day) in Boston, and on Tuesday, September 2 in Amherst. Please make a note to save the date. We are still in the planning stages, but our idea is to have the Boston event start with a tour of a cutting-edge urban agricultural project, followed by an afternoon of classroom-type instruction. We are looking for the best candidate for the tour location – please advise.

The work of Allan Savory and others has shown that holistically planned grazing can restore soils and wildlife habitat, improve the water cycle, feed people, and sustain rural livelihoods.  Hundreds of ranches and farms on four continents have restored land usinggrazing as their primary tool even in very dry climates with only seasonal rainfall.

What about New England?  Can grazing be used successfully here as well?

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